I’m Non-Monogamous and It’s Not a Big Deal.
I needed something different.
Six or seven years ago, at the moment where I felt like what I was taught about relationships and what I was doing did not fit me, I figured either there was another way or…maybe I was broken. I asked Google and Google answered. Thankfully, I wasn’t broken and there was another way, called consensual or ethical non-monogamy (and in some cases polyamory). I read books and blogs, and listened to podcasts. Theoretically this was another option that, at 25 years old, I had no idea existed — which made me angry, but I got over it.
Next, of course, I wanted to see what it was like in practice. I did the only logical thing an introvert with no real social circle could do, I made an OkCupid account. OkC was one of the first and only dating websites that let you specify “non-monogamous” as a relationship preference. I met someone who seemed to be swimming similarly upstream in the same river as myself and that changed EVERYTHING.
It took me some time to grasp the general concept. Someone who considers themselves ethically non-monogamous has romantic and/or sexual relationships with more than one person. On the surface that probably sounds like lots of “single” people that you know. There are some key differences. Most importantly, everyone knows and is consenting to the arrangement. Each person’s knowledge of what’s happening gives them the power and opportunity to decide if they want to continue being in a relationship with someone or not if/when things change. Additionally, there is no preconceived notion about the future of any particular relationship. Going beyond “I will love and have sex with one other person from now until I die” makes things very interesting.
For myself, choosing partners became less about finding the perfect someone and more about finding what’s perfect in someone…and enjoying it.
Time to put in the work.
After five more years of exploration, intense self discovery, and practice I began to accept that those original impulses were legitimate and my decision to venture out in this non-traditional direction was the correct one. Eventually I would understand that this level of honesty and openness required some significant work on my emotional intelligence and communication skills. At times it was almost as painful as it was rewarding, but two things helped me immensely through most this process: a stable, decently paying job that kept me from worrying about life’s necessities and a loving partner who was willing to go along for the ride. (Fun Fact: I also met her on OkC!). I very much understand how privileged I was to be able to have the time and energy to invest in this way and I am so incredibly grateful.
Another year grappling with decades of social conditioning and finally I could fully appreciate that this is a part of myself that I can’t keep hidden from the rest of the world.
Hiding is no longer an option.
We all have our secrets. Little pieces of information about us that the rest of the world just isn’t worthy of knowing. There is something beautiful about that. There’s a satisfying level of intimacy in having and very rarely sharing those secrets. I believe this to be true when it’s a small or medium sized secret. When those secrets are more significant or tied to our identity, they become more of a burden to us and occasionally a burden for others. The bigger the secret the more it occupies our thoughts and interfere in our decision making, which can cause you to feel in moments like you’re living outside of yourself.
I became more and more aware of how many things were impacted by me hiding this part of my life from people around me. It became incredibly strange that people that I’ve known and worked closely with for years had no idea. I found myself trying to obscure “evidence” of my other relationships on social media. I filtered myself constantly when talking about my time spent with people that I’m in love with and cringeworthily called them “a friend”. I couldn’t even hold someone’s hand out in public without constantly fighting the urge to look around to make sure nobody I knew was nearby and gazing in my general direction.
With this piece of writing, being non-monogamous is no longer a secret and hopefully much less of a burden. This is not so much of a coming out as it is a letting go. There are far more important things I want to put my emotional and intellectual energy into, like making games, making art, and building up businesses that care about representation and the safety of marginalized peoples.
I also wanted to be able to share my relationship experiences more openly with friends, family, and the general public. I always knew that love, relationships, and dating are a wonderful part of our existence, but I had to admit to myself how important and interesting they were to me personally. I needed to recognize (after being told by quite a few people) that I have a valuable perspective and a voice that might be helpful for other men to hear regardless of their relationship situation. I’m considering all the ways that could happen, but most importantly, I’m no longer stuck behind the fear that someone will find out I’m who I am.
I get to be fully me.
My name is Omari Akil. I’m a Black man with what some might call a “high-yellow” complexion. I’m a heterosexual but that probably deserves an asterisk. I’m a married person who is most certainly non-monogamous. None of that gives me a particular sense of pride nor should it impress anyone. None of that makes me better or worse than anyone else. These are just a few of the ways I have come to understand who I am. Any of these things could be problematic for someone somewhere for some reason and I do not have the patience to concern myself with that anymore.
I’m non-monogamous and I’m moving on. No big deal.
“Bunny” photo via Pixabay.com